Effective teams will eventually do this on their own, whether HR gives them the tools to do it efficiently or not. Conversely, ineffective teams won’t, and they’ll continue to be characterized by misunderstanding and negativity without a better means for understanding. In places like Dubai, where people generally do not speak the same cultural or verbal languages, the need is more obvious for a common language, a neutral way of telling each other who we are and how we work.
In creating effective teams, every company should keep in mind that:
- People are people, and a company’s willingness to give employees tools to understand each other’s work style and personal preferences can bridge assumptions of all kinds, not only cultural.
- Personal diversity is important too. It’s easy to think of diversity only in its “macro” terms. It’s harder to remember diversity also includes individual preferences that define how we like to work and interact, and this is the part that is critical for building effective teams.
- Don’t be afraid of intimacy. Respecting personal boundaries is, of course, important in a business environment, but don’t let that effort poison employees’ willingness to know each other’s personal preferences on an intensive level.
- Bridging vast cultural divides might be easier than you think. This is related to the first bullet. As I saw in Dubai, when people have a common language for expressing their needs and preferences, the seemingly vast differences fade into the background.
The world is a vast place of cultural diversity, and stepping outside our U.S. comfort zone can often, as in this case, provide the seeds of great ideas that we can take back to our businesses and cultivate.